Dare school quarantines fall with mask mandate

By on September 15, 2021

Parents speak out against mandate during public comment

Supt. John Farrelly said he expects the number of quarantined students to continue droppoing. (File photo)

Two weeks after mandating universal masking in district school buildings, the Dare County Board of Education received some good news at its Sept. 14 meeting from Superintendent John Farrelly about the declining numbers of quarantines in district schools.

At the same time, the board also heard impassioned statements from nine parents during public comment who are opposed to the mask mandate. During the Sept. 14 meeting – where there continued to be a law enforcement presence on hand – Board Chair Mary Ellon Ballance also reminded audience members at several points that if they refused to wear face coverings, they would have to leave.

During his remarks, Farrelly reported that there are currently 56 active cases among Dare County students and four among staff, with 244 students quarantined. That’s a significant decrease since Sept. 1 when the board voted unanimously to mandate universal masking and there were 78 active student cases and 399 students quarantined. And on Sept. 7, there were 77 cases and 482 students quarantined.

With the mask mandate, close contacts of a student who tests positive do not have to quarantine, which would have been the case without universal masking.

“We expect that number [of students in quarantine] to continue to drop, certainly by the next week and certainly by the time that the board meets again in October,” Farrelly explained. “The two areas where we continue to have quarantine concerns and situations are in athletics and in lunch or breakfast.”

Since the majority of students eat in their classrooms where social distancing isn’t possible, the superintendent said the only way to prevent students from getting quarantined while eating would be to extend the school day so students could eat with social distancing in the cafeteria or have students eat outside.

“We can’t prevent every single situation that comes with kids having to eat breakfast and lunch,” he noted, adding that athletics, particularly with contact sports, presents challenges as well.

“What we’re trying to do is mitigate with as many strategies as we can, particularly with athletics…but we’re going to continue to have kids who are quarantined,” Farrelly added. I know there’s some heartburn, we’ve had a couple of athletes who have been quarantined twice, and I understand the concerns.”

Farrelly also explained that students who are quarantined must remain out of school for 14 days, regardless of a negative COVID-19 test result. Despite the Centers for Disease Control offering options to end quarantine after 10 days with no symptoms or 7 days with a negative test, it also states that the individual must remain socially distanced through the 14 days.

“It’s currently impossible for us to provide the physical distancing of six feet when kids are coming back in to schools, and that’s why the Health Department Health Director continues to follow these guidelines,” he noted.

The parents who spoke during the public comment portion of meeting voiced opposition to the mask mandate and quarantining protocols and questioned the efficacy of face coverings.

“These masks are nothing more than political and medical theater,” said Southern Shores resident Matt Brauer. “The mandatory mask policy and these absurd quarantine rules suggested in the Strong Schools Toolkit only serve to promote virtue signaling and political science above actual science and data.”

Referring to a quote by Farrelly on the Dare County Schools website that refers to the district as a family, Kate Cerino of Kitty Hawk asserted: “This hasn’t felt like much of a family to some. A large swath of the family [has felt] intimidated by increasing numbers of armed sheriffs’ deputies at these meetings, admonished for daring to boldly speak up for hard fought freedoms that others have bled and died for.”

For his part, Kill Devil Hills resident Reese Stecher questioned the board as to why there is no public comment during special meetings, including the Sept. 1 meeting in which the board voted for the mask mandate.

“Us parents are the ones with the stake in the game, parents are the ones who pay taxes,” he said. “Not allowing public comment at these meetings, these special meetings, is toxic…If it’s a meeting [about] something so detrimental and important to this many people, to our kids, we ought to have the ability to have public comment.”





  • Sandman

    Armed officers and no comments.. how very American of you 🙄

    Wednesday, Sep 15 @ 1:23 pm
  • Beach

    Great, the “Ive done my own research” crowd. lol

    Wednesday, Sep 15 @ 1:30 pm
  • hightider

    “For daring to boldly speak up for hard fought freedoms that others have bled and died for…”.
    Wow, just wow…Freedom from the British crown in 1775; fighting for unity in the Civil War; WWI fighting against Germans sinking American ships and for our allies; WWII fighting against Nazism and Fascism; and now 9 patriots (snicker) bravely standing up against “armed deputies” called in to keep a public meeting civil…this alone is worth a subscription to the paper.

    Wednesday, Sep 15 @ 3:18 pm
  • anotherobxman

    Bottom line is…masks work. And they would work a LOT better in schools if there was a statewide mask mandate for the general public. Hear that Mr. Roy Cooper? Masks aren’t just for school kids but for EVERYONE. Vaccinated or not.

    Wednesday, Sep 15 @ 4:28 pm
  • Curious

    “With the mask mandate, close contacts of a student who tests positive do not have to quarantine, which would have been the case without universal masking.”

    Doesn’t this mean the quarantine rules were relaxed when the mask mandate was applied? That could be why there are fewer students quarantined now since close contacts are not quarantined like before. I’d like to see an apples-to-apples comparison. That would be a better gauge of the masks effectiveness.

    Wednesday, Sep 15 @ 8:58 pm
  • Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice

    Yes, that was the key reason why the board of education voted for the mask mandate. When the number of students being quarantined under current protocols reached over 400 after just a few weeks, there was a real fear the school doors would have to shut again. With everyone wearing a mask, those quarantines don’t happen.

    Wednesday, Sep 15 @ 9:38 pm
  • Concerned parent

    For all you “Mask Lovers” that say masks work. You are not asking the right questions. Just like Farrlley saying the quarantines are down since masks have been mandated in schools. OF COURSE YOU IDIOTS quarantine has been less because the ridiculous quarantine rules in the SUGGESTED (and I emphasize SUGGESTED) Strong School Toolkit makes it impossible to have optional masks. Having kids quarantine because of close contact if not wearing a mask vs not having to quarantine if wearing a mask. Basically do what I say (wear a mask) or you get punished.
    What you “Mask Lovers” and Farrlley fail to ask Sheila Davies in the Health Dept is how many of those kids that had to quarantine because they didn’t wear masks and came in close contact with a positive case at school became sick OR tested positive. CAN WE PLEASE GET THAT ANSWER!!!!
    Sheila Davies is making decisions based on SUGGESTIONS that are affecting the well being of our children. Have Sheila Davies answer those questions!!!!
    Of course quarantines are down Farrlley because the quarantine rules in the Strong School Toolkit sets us up for failure if masks are not worn, but yet we don’t even know if quarantines were effective.
    Parents should decide what’s best for our kids, not Sheila Davies and her SUGGESTED quarantine rules. The Health Dept and Farrlley are loosing a lot of respect in our community.

    Wednesday, Sep 15 @ 9:26 pm
  • Travis

    I really need to make it to one of these meetings. The board members need to hear more from the percentage of the population that has not gone clinically insane. The Dare numbers alone speak to the efficacy of mask use. There are no studies that show masks give you pneumonia or whatever the lunatic fringe believes these days.

    As I’ve seen posted elsewhere, the idea that the majority of the medical and scientific community is all conspiring with the government somehow to take away our freedoms by forcing people to wear masks is simply inconceivable. And the idea that somehow seatbelt wearing and no smoking and no running at pools and no shirts, no shoes, no service is all perfectly American but the line MUST be drawn at mask wearing? How has such a large portion of the population become so unhinged?

    Wednesday, Sep 15 @ 9:29 pm
  • Concerned Citizen

    If you are really too dense to believe scientists and medical professionals from across the globe on the effectiveness of masks… walk up to an overworked, fed up nurse to tell them your opinion. Maybe they will do us all a favor and knock some sense into you.

    Wednesday, Sep 15 @ 10:07 pm
  • Sarah

    Sandman…comments were heard at this meeting, hence all the quotes in the article. Next topic – your stance is armed, professional officers should not be on our school properties for protection and enforcement of law? So you are adamantly opposed to the idea of allowing untrained civilian teachers being armed as a proposed way to curb school shootings? Just checking, because you cannot be opposed to officers on site yet support random teachers being armed.

    As for the anti-maskers STILL claiming masks don’t work while looking at data that literally shows masks work…if you doubt the authenticity of the data regarding quarantines, allow me to point out other easily obtained public knowledge. 87 students and staff members had active cases of COVID the morning they started mandating masks in school, September 2, after 8 school days of optional masking. 87. Today, 10 school days after mandating masks, the number of active cases is 59. That’s a drastic decrease in a short amount of time. Stop falsely claiming the data is skewed, or flawed. The data is readily available and CLEARLY shows the efficacy of masks. If this information is really this complicated for you to understand, maybe you should stop questioning the quality of education our students are receiving and start questioning the validity of your own education.

    Wednesday, Sep 15 @ 11:12 pm
  • Michelle Taylor

    How is The Voice and everyone else in this county able to trust the data that was presented to the BOE yesterday?

    Please explain the following #’s that were presented at yesterday’s board meeting:

    September 9th:
    Staff with Active Cases: 9
    Staff Quarantined: 6

    September 14th
    Staff with Active Cases: 4
    Staff Quarantined: 2

    Please explain to me how the active case staff # is higher than the staff quarantined?

    Wednesday, Sep 15 @ 11:16 pm
  • Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice

    Michelle, I asked your question to Sheila Davies at the Dare Department of HHS. And here was her answer.

    According to the information that we are receiving from the school administrators, staff report that they are maintaining social distance and/or were not in school during their contagious period. Staff numbers also include support staff, not just teachers – some support staff are in the building in the evenings or work independently in their own offices.
    Also, Dr. Farrelly provided Contact Level Protocols on 8/23/21 that maintain limited contact levels in the schools. many DCS staff are vaccinated which exempts them from quarantine. So, between the distancing protocols, working independently and vaccinations it is not surprising that the positive cases exceed those quarantine for staff.

    Thursday, Sep 16 @ 10:52 am
  • Fred McPeters

    Well said Travis!! It’s only a mask… not a muzzle. Get over it and move on.

    Thursday, Sep 16 @ 12:24 am

    TRavis………………..Maybe folks are coming unhinged because they have been jerked in so many directions by so many different “experts” .

    Thursday, Sep 16 @ 7:08 am
  • Vaxxed and masked

    I’m with you.
    Please Wear a mask people. It’s not about your freedom, it’s about keeping us all well during this pandemic. Children’s and adult Hospital ICU beds are full of unvaccinated covid patients.
    Stay safe and healthy because there might not be a bed available for you or your family member for other diseases like heart attacks, strokes, etc…
    be kind and humble during these times.

    Thursday, Sep 16 @ 9:14 am
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